What is Custody and Visitation Mediation?

People often find that mediation and collaborative law are beneficial in place of litigation, particularly when it comes to family law. When a couple is going through divorce, mediation can help ease the tension in dealing with disputes over children. It is important to keep this in mind, especially if the court has required you to both at least try mediation, as courts in Georgia sometimes do.

But going through mediation still requires the advice of an experienced family law attorney. The mediator does not facilitate your legal rights, but rather, only assists the parties in communicating, as a neutral third party. It is crucial that you are aware and prepared when it comes to your legal rights in mediating custody and visitation cases.

The Role of the Mediator

The mediator is typically a neutral third party that sits down with both parties (and their attorneys) in order to facilitate discussions between the parties, which are aimed at settlement or agreement. The role of the mediator is not to get involved in providing legal advice or counseling (hence the need for your attorney to also be present), but rather to focus the discussion and ensure that the parties are communicating their needs and interests rather than arguing their positions.

The Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution approves the minimum qualifications for serving as a mediator and oversees mediator ethics in the state. The “rules” pursuant to this process (under the umbrella of Alternative Dispute Resolution) are promulgated by the Georgia Supreme Court.

Issues Specific to Custody Mediation

If custody is an issue, the mediator can focus on what issues need to be resolved in the best interest of the child. Some of the common issues couples facing a child custody or visitation dispute deal with and need to resolve include:

  • The basic custody/visitation schedule;
  • Any exceptions to the schedule (to accommodate holidays, etc).;
  • Any particular issues that need to be resolved; issues that are unique to the child, religious background of the family, etc.;
  • How parents will stay in touch about important issues re: their child; and/or
  • Whether the schedule will need to be changed at some point, and how.

Although the courts cannot require you to come to an agreement, the mediator will ultimately be working towards the preparation of a custody/visitation agreement that reflects what you have discussed in your session(s). It is crucial that you carefully read this agreement with the help of your attorney so that you understand all of the relevant provisions. Your attorney, throughout the process, can ensure that your most important interests, for yourself and the child, are represented so that you do not feel as though you have over-negotiated. It is also important to remember that any issues not resolved in the agreement can be resolved in court.

Edwards & Associates Can Help

If you or someone you know is going through a divorce or custody dispute, it is important that you have an experienced attorney by your side during the entire process. Edwards & Associates may be able to assist you in understanding your legal rights so that you can go into mediation ready to come to the best agreement possible for you and your child. Contact us today to discuss your case and see how we can help.